Previous Trip Notes:
A Friendly Trip to Costa Rica: Part 1 – AA DCA > MIA
We landed at gate D10, the perfect gate to meander across gate D12 to access the American Express Centurion Lounge. NSPwife upgraded to an AMEX Personal Platinum card about 3 months ago. The $450 is a steep annual fee, but having Southwest Airlines gift cards count towards the $200 Airline Reimbursements, it’s actually a no-brainer. As NSPwife also has a Southwest Companion Pass, the $200 of gift cards gets us $400 worth of travel. It also offers reimbursement for Global Entry (and thus TSA Pre-Check). Right there and you have $500 of value for the fee. Throw in access to many airport lounges – from Delta to Priority Pass to Centurion, and you have a good deal. We actually paid $175 to add 3 authorized users – and “gifted” two cards to my sister and her husband so they could access lounges and also get TSA Pre-Check. The 3rd authorized user went to…me! Each Platinum Card member can bring up to two guests in with them, so between NSPwife and me, the four of us could access the lounge.
When we checked in, the receptionist let us know they were serving a gourmet breakfast at the time, and that we could book complimentary spa services such as a massage or manicure. We decided to pass on the spa services but took advantage of the breakfast, which included sausage and potatoes, pancakes, muffins, quiche and huevos rancheros. The meal was pretty good, and since we were on day one of our vacation, took advantage of the premium bar.
I’ve been to the Centurion Lounges in both San Francisco and Las Vegas, both which were extremely nice, although crowded. And I had read in many places that the lounges are at all-time highs in terms of capacity, so much so that it can be hard to find seats. Luckily it was relatively empty. While nice, it wasn’t quite as “advanced” as SFO (with their wine tastings) or LAS (with large food offerings). It was cool to overlook the tarmac though.
It was now time to head to our gate. We had arranged 4 seats across in business class, on a domestic style 737. The service was fairly poor for business class. No beverage service before take-off, no introduction of crew. Once in the air the service was fine, The meal that was served was ok – choice of chicken salad or lentils. The chicken salad included corn, black beans and lettuce. It was served with a roll and a cookie.
The flight was relatively short, and we started our descent about five minutes after The Big Short ended. Excitement was high.
One thing that I wish was adopted world-wide is Fast-Track Immigration Passes. We were the first off the plane, being seated in the front row, 3A-3D. Things were looking good with no other passengers in view…until our final turn. The immigration queue was lengthy, clearly at least two planes had landed a mere minutes before us. To add insult to injury, after waiting for about 15 minutes, the customs agents decided to open up a second queue, of course filling it with people from the back. So 40 painful minutes later, we cleared customs. Not a huge deal, but we had hoped to visit Plaza Fieras for their farmer’s market, which now was out of our reach time-wise. We picked up a bunch of wine and liquor at Duty Free (fyi, the limit is 8 bottles per person). Prices were pretty good, and it was more for convenience than price. We then grabbed some local currency from the ATM and headed to the National Car Rental counter.
The fun was about to begin…